Introduction to Architectural Design and Theory

Open to students entering grades 11 or 12 or freshman year of college in the fall
I - June 29–July 17, 2020
II - July 21–August 7, 2020
Days & Time:
Monday–Friday, 9:10 –11:00 a.m. and 1:10–4:00 p.m.
Virginia Black, Hasan Hachem, Brendan Moran

Some experience with drawing is recommended. Students should also have a willingness to engage with challenging theoretical material and to work independently on complex creative projects.

 “I have gained a new perspective in understanding architecture's meaning and role in human society.” – From a program course evaluation

 “The projects definitely surprised me about this course. Our creativity really showed and the projects were so unique.” – Leslie M. | Brooklyn, New York

Course Description

This intensive introduction to key concepts in architecture consists of a morning seminar focusing on architectural history and theory and an afternoon studio in which students learn through independent hands-on design.

In the seminar, participants are familiarized with the fundamental vocabulary employed to describe architectural ideas. The course covers how to analyze a building visually and formally, and introduces a spectrum of significant historical and recent designs while instilling an understanding of how the built environment is generated and transformed. Through discussions of challenging readings that encompass the political, social, technological, and economic aspects of the field, students are introduced to selected architectural themes. Class discussions are supplemented with an architectural tour of the Columbia University campus and visits to prominent works of modern architecture in New York City such as the Whitney Museum, the High Line Park, Grand Central Station, and the Seagram Building.

The afternoon studio class, conducted as a creative workshop, introduces participants to the conceptual skills employed by architectural designers. Instructors provide students with hands-on training in rudimentary technical drawing and introduce them to the process of conceptualizing and developing architectural ideas. A short project is undertaken in the final week, in which students develop their own designs for an intervention on one of the New York City sites that was visited earlier in the session.

Course participants should budget approximately $200 for the cost of studio supplies. A supplies list can be found here. Also please note that assignments for the studio portion of the course will require some in-class work outside of normal class meeting times.


Virginia Black

Virginia Black is an architect, indigenous rights advocate, and visual ethnographer whose research is sited at the intersection of bodies, the environment, and memory. Her current work is situated between New York and Ecuador, where she collaborates with AMUPAKIN, an indigenous women's midwifery. She is a founding principal of feminist architecture collaborative and teaches at Interior Design at Pratt Institute and in the Department of Architecture and Technology at NYCCT. Virginia has worked for Arthur Ross Architecture Gallery and for a number of architecture design firms, including Maison Édouard François (Paris) and VolumeOne and AKOAKI (Detroit). Her work and writing has been published by Ed, FLACSO, and Harvard Design Magazine. She holds an M.S. in Critical, Curatorial and Conceptual Practices in Architecture from Columbia University, an M.Arch from the University of Michigan, and a B.Arts in architecture and modern languages from Clemson University.

Hasan Hachem

Hasan Hachem is a researcher, designer, and strategist focused on architecture, sustainability, and technology. He is founder and director of Origin Zero, an architecture practice that explores the eco-politics of the built environment and experiments with natural systems to address the climate. Hasan holds a Bachelors of Architecture from Syracuse University as well as a Master of Science in advanced architectural design from Columbia University. He is co-editor of the July, 2020 volume of the journal Science for the People, which focuses on the Green New Deal, energy democracy, and re-thinking architecture under the climate crisis.

Brendan Moran

Brendan Moran holds a Ph.D. in architecture history and theory from Harvard University and a Masters of Environmental Design from Yale University. He has taught courses in design and architectural history/theory at Yale University, Columbia University, NJIT, and Syracuse University. Brendan is co-founder of AD-Hoc, a design think tank. He has worked for various architecture firms in New York City and elsewhere, including Leeser Architecture, Spivak Architects, The Rockwell Group, Bone/Levine Architects, and Peter L. Gluck and Partners.

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Specific course detail such as hours and instructors are subject to change at the discretion of the University. Not all instructors listed for a course teach all sections of that course.